GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Jon Snow may not be a historical figure, but students at Stockton University are learning from his and other characters’ experiences on “Game of Thrones” to gain insight into medieval history.
“It’s the most popular cable TV series ever, students are really into it,” said Professor Geoffrey Gust. “So it’s a class where students get an interesting kind of grounding in history — hopefully — film studies, and then ultimately we point them in the direction of a much more in-depth and intriguing perspective of ‘Game of Thrones.’”
“Games of Thrones in Premodern Literature and Film” is in its final year at the college as the megapopular HBO series “Game of Thrones” wraps up its final season this spring. It is a general studies course that delves into themes such as gender and sexuality, politics, religion and violence.
Nicole Fox, 18, of Upper Township, is a self-proclaimed “‘Game of Thrones’ nerd” who began watching the show last year and is in the midst of reading the books now.
Fox said she loves coming to class and getting to hear everyone else’s thoughts and theories on the show and books.
“It really brings the show to a huge world,” she said.
Gust developed the class about five years ago when the “Game of Thrones” series had really taken off. He was able to begin offering it to students three years ago, but said he doesn’t plan to offer it again next year after the series ends.
While the name of the class was probably a great marketing tool, the students learn about much more than about the HBO series or books by George R.R. Martin. It offers students lessons on history, film and writing.
“Martin himself was a history student in college,” Gust said. “And the show is basically inspired by the English War of the Roses, but he also draws on other historical characters motifs ideas on the one hand. But then he interweaves those with fantasy.”
On Thursday, experts in medieval fighting were on hand and in costume to present to the class on medieval weaponry. The re-enactors were part of the Knights of Crossford, a combat fight team affiliated with the New Jersey Renaissance Faire.
They brought with them several of the weapons that are used in the series, including an execution sword similar to Ned Stark’s greatsword Ice, a smallsword like Arya’s Needle, and a war hammer like the one used by King Robert Baratheon.
The Knights team talked about how the weapons were used and developed throughout history. Terri McIntyre, stage combat instructor for the Knights of Crossford, lauded the “Game of Thrones” series for the historical accuracy of the “Battle of the Bastards” in season 7 and the use of a shield wall.
“The shield wall is so effective, it’s still in use today — riot police,” she told the class.
The class had a chance to ask questions and hold the weapons. Later in the day, they would participate in a Medieval Marketplace on campus with projects they created.
Student Ki Stetser, 19, of the Blackwood section of Gloucester Township, signed up for the class on a whim because of a love for literature, although she had never seen “Game of Thrones” prior to this semester. She said she loves the idea of using pop culture to teach about history.
“I feel like I’m actually learning something I’m interested in,” Stetser said.
Gust said he sees other opportunities for similar classes as the spinoff series to “Game of Thrones” debuts and additional movies related to “Lord of the Rings” are released.